March 31, 2013

Second Chance Summer: Vlog Review

I thought I'd try something a bit different and do a video review for a change! Here are my thoughts on Morgan Matson's Second Chance Summer, in vlog format (apologies in advance for the weird sort of white noise in the background):

If you'd like to check out the blog post on unreliable narrators that I mention, you can do so here.

March 29, 2013

Giveaway Winners!

I've drawn the winners of my most recent giveaways!

The winners of the Life of Pi Blu-ray giveaway are... 

...Brian and Isaac!

The winner of the If You Find Me giveaway is...


Congratulations to the winners! I have e-mailed them and they have 72 hours to respond before I choose another winner.

ETA: I haven't heard back from one of the Life of Pi winners, so I have drawn another one... Congrats, Elaina! You have 72 hours to respond to my e-mail.

March 25, 2013

I'm Guest Posting for Fairy Tale Fortnight!


That's right, it's Fairy Tale Fortnight time again and I'm very happy to be guest posting once more! Fairy Tale Fortnight is a blog event devoted to all things fairy tale–related, and is hosted by Misty at The Book Rat and Bonnie at A Backwards Story.

My post this year is all about fairy tale what-ifs... as in, what if Goldilocks and The Three Pigs were friends? What would happen if King Midas met the characters from The Golden Goose? To find out more, check out my post over at The Book Rat!

March 20, 2013

U-Pick: Character Most Likely to Double-Cross You?

Here's how this feature works: each week I'll post a categorical superlative (e.g. "most sadistic villain" "crankiest father figure" "protagonist you would most like to slap some sense into" etc.) and list a few choices of characters from YA books in a poll. You get to pick! The poll will run for a week, and then in the following post I'll update with the name of the winning character. 

The last U-Pick poll was for the YA Character Most In Love With Him/Herself, and the winner by a hefty margin was...

...Professor Lockhart from Harry Potter!

I'm sure he'll be bragging about the title for a long time to come. This time around, the question is: which YA character do you think would be most likely to double-cross you?

There are lots of choices here, so vote below! (If the book is part of a series, I've just listed the series name. You can decide which book you want to base your vote on.) There's also an option for a write-in vote if your pick isn't listed. If that's the case, please choose "other" and then leave the character's name and book title in the comments :)

EDIT: the Blogger poll did not seem to be working properly (the votes kept disappearing!) so I've created a new poll that will hopefully work better. So if you voted once already with the original Blogger poll, vote again in this new one so your vote can be counted! 

YA Character Most Likely to Double-Cross You? free polls 

March 19, 2013

If You Find Me: Giveaway!

Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me was a Waiting on Wednesday pick of mine last fall, so I'm happy to be able to host a giveaway of it! St. Martin's Press has generously offered up a copy to one of my readers.

First, a little more about the book:

"There are some things you can’t leave behind…

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down." (from Goodreads)
And now, the giveaway rules:

- Entrants must have a mailing address within the US or Canada
- Entrants must be 13 years or older
- Tweeting and following are always appreciated, but not required
- One entry per person
- There will be 1 winner, randomly selected, who will receive 1 copy of If You Find Me
- Giveaway ends March 26 at 11:59 pm EST

To enter, please fill out THIS FORM. Comments, while wonderful, do not count as entries.

March 17, 2013

The Book Lode (14)

There are quite a few memes to choose from now for showing the books we've gotten recently, so I thought to be fair I'd link my posts up to a different meme each month. I'm grouping the posts under the name "The Book Lode," and this month I'm linking up to In My Mailbox. Credit for this meme goes to Kristi from The Story Siren and Alea from Pop Culture Junkie.

For review: 

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson
Delusion by Laura L. Sullivan
Never by K.D. McEntire

Thanks very much to Thomas Allen & Son and PYR Books!


The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente


March 15, 2013

Sweetly: A Close-Up Review

"As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.

Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past -- until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone -- it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.

Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.
" (from Goodreads) 
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

My apologies for all the whited-out sections in this review! There were a lot of potential spoilers I had to try to sidestep with this one. 


Gretchen: I enjoyed her as a narrator. Gretchen is straight-forward, clear-thinking, and tells the reader what's on her mind; her narrative is easy to follow. She has some issues with trusting people (Sophia aside, because Sophia is the exception to pretty much every rule in this book), probably at least partly stemming from her traumatic past. Also, Gretchen is very self-aware, her voice feeling quite mature, which I appreciate since I sometimes find it so frustrating when a character is knee-deep in denial. She's really into introspective self-analysis, getting into the layers of her emotions and reactions, but it doesn't take over the plot. It was very easy to understand and sympathize with her, and even when she did something I didn't necessarily agree with, I found it plausible rather than annoying.
I wish we'd been shown more of Gretchen's parents and twin sister. We don't see very much of them in memories, and I didn't feel like I understood Gretchen's relationship with her parents as well as I would have liked.

Sophia: right from the start, I didn't like Sophia — probably a combination of the fact that I knew this was a Hansel & Gretel retelling (and let's face it, you're not supposed to trust the person with the candy...), that Gretchen was warned off Sophia, and just Sophia's altogether too shiny, bubbly, sickly-sweet personality. The ambiguity surrounding Sophia is done really well, and for a large part of the book I wasn't really sure what I should be feeling about her. She's a strange, complicated individual, as murky and enigmatic as Gretchen is clear. Also, Sophia has a definite talent for compartmentalizing. Major spoilers: in a way, you sorta have to sympathize with her, because she loved her sister and was doing all this for her. But at the same time, she was condemning all these girls to death, and she knew it and did it anyway...which is so hard to forgive. It was really interesting how she flipped between this overly bright, cheery, fake personality and the real person — guilty, upset, lonely — beneath. I almost wish we'd seen more from her perspective once we find out the motivations for her actions.

Ansel: I didn't ever really get a handle on his character or feel like his personality shone here. I do like the strong bond that Ansel and Gretchen have — I think that's a little unusual in YA — but I would have appreciated seeing more of their brother-sister dynamic. We don't see them share that much emotionally with each other, but we can tell from Gretchen's narrative how close the two of them are, particularly in terms of Ansel's role of big brother looking out for his younger sister. They're obviously very used to sticking by each other's side.

Samuel: he's a gruff, prickly sort of guy with a bit of a rough attitude. He doesn't take kindly to strangers, perhaps because he's used to people thinking he's crazy. I really loved the Samuel-Gretchen relationship. They are two people who don't normally let others in; Samuel is closed-off and still kinda hung up on his first love, and Gretchen's been in this close-knit world of just her and her brother for a long time. I think they both recognize this quality in the other person, and that's one of the things they kinda bond over. Developing this relationship requires both Samuel and Gretchen to let their guard down. The nervous anticipation surrounding a new romantic connection, the anxiety about the physicality of it, is portrayed really well here. It's new for both of them, they're unsure about it and each other, and they're not yet settled into the relationship but it's exciting at the same time. Even though we don't get that many scenes with the two of them — I would've loved some more romantic exchanges! — Pearce somehow makes it work. They don't know each other that well but there's a mutual attraction there, and they've been in these life-and-death situations with each other, so there's a certain level of trust that develops.


This is a very loose retelling of Hansel & Gretel, but even though the whole story has been completely reshuffled, many of the key elements are present in one way or another (spoilers: for instance, the fire scene is a neat twist on the oven in the original!). The whole twist with having the siblings originally be a boy and twin sisters, and then one of the twins vanishing, was really cool. It creates this ghostly, haunting presence in Gretchen's life. She can't ever really leave her sister behind, even though, in a way, she's been left behind by her sister. While Gretchen obviously remembers how it felt to be a twin, so connected to someone else, I would have liked to have seen more of their bond through memories.

I was a little disappointed that the candy shop itself didn't play a critical role in Sweetly, since it's such an important part of the fairy tale. Spoilers: I'd like to think the candy Sophia makes is magical, because there are a couple times when it seems to have an effect on the characters who are eating it. However, it isn't explicitly stated one way or the other, unfortunately.

I wasn't really sold on the main villains in this book, for a couple of reasons. Spoilers: I'm not big on werewolves generally, and I thought it was a bit of a cop-out to use the same villains here that were used in Sisters Red. It just seemed a little too easy and convenient that they turned out to be the "witch" that terrorized the children. I also would have liked some more background information on the wolves and their behaviour; sometimes it seems like the author expects us to know about them from reading Sisters Red (it's been a while since I read that one so I didn't remember the details).


Sweetly is a fairly slow-moving mystery; while there's tension, there isn't a lot of action until the very end. However, Jackson Pearce builds in unsettling clues throughout, cleverly stringing along the reader and making it creepy on a subtle level.

There were a few things plot-wise that I took issue with. For one, you have to suspend some disbelief once everything's revealed. The explanation at the end felt a little rushed; most of the book is building up to this and then it felt like we didn't get enough information (spoilers: for instance, I still don't know what happened to Sophia's mom and why the werewolves came into the house for her dad). There are a lot of unanswered questions (some of which I suspect will be addressed in the next book, Fathomless — I have to admit the ending of Sweetly sets up very well for the next in the series). I guessed a sizeable chunk of the mystery surrounding Sophia, but not all of it (spoiler: I pretty much figured out the werewolf-seashell-Sophia connection, but not the layer involving her sister).

Also, I thought Gretchen should have asked more questions of Samuel about what had happened at the chocolate festivals previously. He was rather spare on the details!

That said, I loved that the author "went there" with the ending, involving a well-choreographed, symbolic "must-die" sort of death. Huge spoilers: you could kind of see the death of Sophia coming, because Gretchen, Ansel and Samuel were the inarguably "good guys" and Sophia was certainly not, so if anyone was going to go down in a blaze of glory it was going to be her. In a way, though, I think it might have been even more powerful storytelling if Gretchen had experienced a little more suffering or loss (spoiler: for example, if Samuel or Ansel had died...although I admit that would have been bleak!)
Writing style: 

Overall, the writing here is strong. Jackson Pearce does a really good job of getting us right into Gretchen's head (the narration is quite close 1st-person). Despite the fact that Gretchen is a rather closed-off, distanced individual in some ways, the narration still puts us smack-dab in her head. This allows us to bypass that hurdle that other people have when they try to get close to her — which is necessary, I think, in order for the reader to really "get" Gretchen.

Some of the descriptions of setting and atmosphere also shine, like the chocolatier and the forest. And throughout the novel Pearce manages to create an uneasy, subtly disturbing mood, without compromising her narrator's intelligence or integrity. I didn't feel like Gretchen was really lying to us, or being stupid; she didn't have the same instincts as I did, but all the same, as a reader I wanted to like her.

Given Gretchen's penchant for self-examination, there is some repetition in her thought content. Gretchen is very aware that she's actively trying to change who she is, and these themes of overcoming fear and stepping out of the role of "scared little girl" are perhaps stated a little too obviously at times.

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher.

Note: Sweetly does contain some mature content (primarily violence).

March 13, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Registry and Not a Drop to Drink

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

My WoW picks this week are:

The Registry by Shannon Stoker

Goodreads' description:

"The Registry saved the country from collapse. But stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained by the state to fight to their death.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous thoughts. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.

This one sounds like it's a dystopian New Adult read! NA books are often straight-up contemporary romance so it's refreshing to see one in the dystopian genre. Hoping The Registry is a good mix of action/adventure and thought-provoking exploration of themes like slavery and feminism.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Goodreads' description:

"Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

I guess the theme of my WoWs this week is dystopian premises, LOL. But this one sounds more on the post-apocalyptic side of things. I love the significance placed on water (we already know in this day and age what an important commodity water is!), and it seems to me that Lynn's role as guardian of this pond almost has a slightly mythological feel to it. Really interested to see how this one plays out! Plus, that is a pretty striking cover — the light/dark contrast is employed really well.

What books are you waiting for?

March 12, 2013

Life of Pi: Blu-ray Giveaway!

That's right, it's another giveaway! The Life of Pi film is coming out on DVD/Blu-ray today, and ThinkJam has generously offered up a Blu-ray copy of Life of Pi to two of my readers.

First, here's a little more about the film:

"A “magnificent and moving” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) motion picture event that has been hailed as “a masterpiece” (Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times), taking in over $500 million in worldwide box office.  LIFE OF PI follows Pi Patel, a young man on a fateful voyage who, after a spectacular disaster, is marooned on a lifeboat with the only other survivor, a fearsome 450 lb Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. Hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery Pi and his majestic companion make an amazing and unexpected connection."

The giveaway rules:

- Entrants must have a mailing address within the US or Canada
- Entrants must be 13 years or older
- Tweeting and following are always appreciated, but not required
- One entry per person
- There will be 2 winners, randomly selected, each of whom will receive 1 Blu-ray copy of Life of Pi
- Giveaway ends March 24 at 11:59 pm EST

To enter, please fill out THIS FORM. Comments, while wonderful, do not count as entries.

March 5, 2013

Cover Reveal: Game. Set. Match. (and Giveaway!)

I'm happy to be participating in the cover reveal for Jennifer Iacopelli's upcoming New Adult novel, Game. Set. Match.! Here's the book synopsis, to start with:

"Nestled along the coastline of North Carolina, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the best elite tennis training facility in the world. Head Coach, Dominic Kingston has assembled some of the finest talent in the sport. From the game's biggest stars to athletes scraping and clawing to achieve their dreams, OBX is full of ego, drama and romance. Only the strong survive in this pressure cooker of competition, on and off the court.

Penny Harrison, the biggest rising star in tennis, is determined to win the French Open and beat her rival, the world’s number one player, Zina Lutrova. There’s just one problem, the only person who’s ever been able to shake her laser-like focus is her new training partner. Alex Russell, tennis’s resident bad boy, is at OBX recovering from a knee injury suffered after he crashed his motorcycle (with an Aussie supermodel on the back). He's hoping to regain his former place at the top of men’s tennis and Penny’s heart, while he’s at it.

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. Her parents have seven Grand Slam championships between them and she’s desperate to live up to their legacy. Her best friend is Teddy Harrison, Penny’s twin brother, and that’s all they’ve ever been, friends. Then one stupid, alcohol-laced kiss makes everything super awkward just as she as she starts prepping for the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

The Classic is what draws Indiana Gaffney out of the hole she crawled into after her mom’s death. Even though she’s new to OBX, a win at the Classic is definitely possible. She has a big serve and killer forehand, but the rest of her game isn’t quite up to scratch and it doesn’t help that Jasmine Randazzo and her little minions are stuck-up bitches or that Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and oldest brother, is too hot for words, not to mention way too old for her.

Who will rise? Who will fall?

Told from rotating points of view, GAME. SET. MATCH., is a 'new adult' novel about three girls with one goal: to be the best tennis player in the world."

And now, here's the cover...

Game. Set. Match. (Outer Banks Tennis Academy, #1)

What do you guys think?

And of course, the giveaway that Jennifer is hosting!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 4, 2013

Interview with Heather Beck (and Giveaway!)

I'm pleased to welcome Heather Beck to the blog today for an interview!

First, a bit about the author:

Heather Beck is a Canadian author and screenwriter who began writing professionally at the age of sixteen. Her first book was published when she was only nineteen years old. Since then she has written several well-reviewed books.

Heather recently received an Honors Bachelor of Arts from university where she specialized in English and studied an array of disciplines. Currently, she is working on two young adult novels and has six anthologies slated for publication. As a screenwriter, Heather has multiple television shows and movies in development. Her short films include Young Eyes, The Rarity and Too Sensible For Love.

Besides writing, Heather's greatest passion is the outdoors. She is an award-winning fisherwoman and a regular hiker. Her hobbies include swimming, playing badminton and volunteering with non-profit organizations.
And now for the questions...

Many of your books center around the paranormal. What is it about this genre that inspires you as a writer?

My fascination with paranormal tales began in childhood from a cause unknown even to myself. It’s just a genre I’ve always been drawn to because it explores new worlds bound only by the limits of one’s imagination. As someone with a lot of imagination, writing these stories is a true joy as well as a great outlet for my creativity. I write books with slightly darker tones because I love a good scary story. I’m not into violence or gore, though, so my work is more about suspense, creepy characters and fantastical mythology. I could discuss how these fictional monsters are a representation of our fears externalized so we can defeat them, but in the end it’s simply the most fun genre to write.

You've written both YA/YA-friendly and adult books. How challenging is it for you to move between writing YA and writing adult fiction? Do you have a preference?

I don’t find the transition hard at all. Basically, I treat both audiences the same. The only difference with my adult books is that the characters are slightly older and they usually have a full-time job. I even use the same genres and themes. If I had to choose which audience I prefer writing for, I’d actually pick middle graders. I’ve had the most success writing for that age group, and I even hear from adult readers who enjoy these books! Also, I feel like I can use more fantastical characters, plots and settings in middle grade literature. There’s a higher level of tolerance for imagination, whereas a more mature audience may just view such material as unrealistic.

Are there any common themes that you think extend across several of your YA novels?

Forbidden or very complicated love is a theme readers will often find in my young adult books. I definitely believe in true love, so my romances are high-stake and intense. These relationships face many obstacles, but the couple can overcome almost anything because of their deep love, connection, and need for each other. Emancipation, both physical and emotional, is another theme that runs throughout many of my works. It’s about reaching for one’s dreams and transcending the mundane to find a beautiful life; basically, it’s about living life to the fullest. Additionally, an aspect that remains consistent throughout my young adult books is core character traits. My main characters, and often the secondary characters, too, are multi-faceted, realistic, unique, and flawed. A lot of my stories were written because of a particular character, and therefore their development is a top priority for me.

You're Canadian (yay!). Is there another Canadian YA author you can recommend for my readers?

This sounds absolutely awful, but I haven’t really had a chance to read recreationally for a very long time. As a fan of the Pretty Little Liars television show, I just had to read Ali’s Pretty Little Lies, and that was the first book I’ve read for enjoyment in over ten years! This isn’t by choice, but rather due to my work commitments. I have projects lined up for the next five years, and I am working insanely hard to get everything finished.
If one of your novels could be adapted (by someone else!) into film, which book would you pick, and who would you choose to adapt it?

I think my book series, The Horror Diaries, would make an excellent television show. I don’t have a favourite screenwriter, so I’d be happy working with almost any experienced teleplay writer. My only requirements are that the writer respects the plots and characters I’ve created. They must also keep the show aimed towards a middle grade audience. Since I want to maintain the essence of The Horror Diaries, the small screen adaptation must still be fun, creepy, suspenseful and, above all else, imaginative.

Thanks very much for these thoughtful responses to my questions, Heather! You can find out more about Heather and her work at her website and by watching her writer's reel.

Heather has generously offered up a giveaway! One winner will receive PDF copies of the following 3 YA novels:

-Vocations (
-The Hammock (
-Verisimilitude (

The rules:

 - Entrants must be 13 years or older
 - One entry per person
 - Winner will be selected randomly
 - Giveaway ends March 18 at 11:59 PM EST

To be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment with your e-mail address!


March 2, 2013

February "New Adult" Challenge Reviews – Link Them Up Here!

Participants in the "New Adult" reading challenge: if you have reviews from February, here's your chance to link them up! And if you have not yet signed up for the NA Challenge but want to participate, never fear: you can still sign up here :)

Related Posts with Thumbnails